Many Sanpete fire departments in dire need of support
By David Olsen
Sanpete County fire departments are all facing the same problems this fire-fighting season—not enough money and a shortage of volunteers.
Gunnison Valley Fire Chief Jed Hansen said it costs his city $4,500 to equip one firefighter with the mandatory personal protective equipment. The fireman’s bunker pants and bunker coat (turnouts) cost $1,700 alone and have a maximum 10-year lifespan to meet standards set by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).
Unfortunately, the Fountain Green Fire Department is using turnouts up to 20 years old. The city only budgets for one replacement set per year. The department currently has 13 active members and would like to add two more. Replacing only one set per year means the department can never catch up.
Fountain Green also suffers from an inadequate building. The roof leaks and there are holes in the ceiling.
According to training officer, Kyler Daybell, “There is no provision for providing compressed air to the main fire trucks, one of which has a leaking air brake system and needs to run for about three minutes to build up enough air pressure to release the brakes before the vehicle can leave the station.”
Fountain Green Fire Chief Matt Green added, “The city provides a budget of $8,000. Of which $2,000 is used for Lamb Days. That leaves only $6,000 for fuel, repairs and operating supplies.” The city also does not have a “Jaws of Life” and must rely on Wales and Nephi for vehicle extrications.
The Fairview Fire Department is in a much better financial position due in large part because of a unique situation. Fire Chief Nathan Minor’s day job allows extraordinary flexibility in his hours. During the national wildfire season, he can respond anywhere in the country in a brush truck and has been deployed up to 14 days at a time working for the U. S. Forest Service. This work is paid time to the city, which then pays Chief Minor. The balance is then credited to the fire department budget, infusing it with thousands of dollars.
The next biggest problem facing Sanpete fire departments is finding volunteers. There are not enough to go around. All Sanpete Fire Departments are staffed by local volunteers. The volunteers attend training on a weekly basis at their respective departments plus additional training throughout the year.
Daytime is especially difficult to find volunteers because they work and cannot respond from their jobs. Fountain Green is an exception; four members work for Beck Automotive which is a block away from the fire station and the owner has allowed those employees to leave work to respond.
Fairview has reduced the problem somewhat by allowing city employees that are also firefighters to respond while on duty if doing so does not negatively impact the
The NFPA sets minimum standards for fire departments and they have determined that on a residential structure fire there must be at least four firefighters on scene before entry into the structure can be attempted. One or two more members that can respond may make all the difference.
Sanpete fire chiefs unanimously agreed that volunteer firefighters are definitely needed, but other volunteers are welcome as well. Driver, clerks, accountants, speakers, information specialists and others are encouraged to sign up.
Volunteer fire departments are mandated to meet the same training, vehicles, equipment, and record keeping as the full-time departments like Salt Lake City.
Adding to that: New home construction and related contents rely on a tremendous number of synthetics. They burn hotter, longer, give off far deadlier gases, and are harder to extinguish than the homes of thirty years ago.
The Indianola Fire Department is not currently certified to respond to structure fires. They are working with the county so they can. They have a solid base of equipment for wild fires and are frequently called to assist other departments with water supplies. They have a 5,000-gallon water tender and two 1,000-gallon fire engine/water tenders as well as two brush trucks. As they are located on SR 89, they have ordered “Jaws of Life” rescue tools so they can respond to frequent car accidents.
According to Fire Chief Rob Beal, when they get their structure fire certification, they will need to upgrade their equipment with self-contained breathing apparatus. They have 12 active members and would like to add two or three more, plus a couple of non-firefighting volunteers.
Sanpete County Fire Warden Tom Peterson is responsible for coordinating the individual city departments to respond to wildland fires.
Peterson has been instrumental in encouraging the departments to work and train together; thus providing a more effective response to all types of incidences, said Gunnison Fire Chief Jed Hansen. Through this cooperation, the cities have entered into mutual-aid contracts to assist each other.